on give and take

Achilles is the best of the Greeks in the Iliad: the fastest, the strongest, the most warlike. He fights like a god (Zeus is his great-grandfather, after all), he excels at winning, he excels at taking – men’s lives and their booty. He is the best his world has to offer.

But he cannot handle loss. When robbed of his spear-won prize Briseis, the best he can do is cry out to his goddess mother, and sulk, hopefully robbing Agamemnon of his victory. And when he loses the great love of his life Patroclus, he flies into murderous rage: he slays horse-breaker Hector in revenge (fair enough), but also horribly abuses the corpse, and even burns alive 12 Trojan boys in his bereavement. When he loses, when things are taken from him, he responds the only way he knows how: double down and take right back. Continue reading “on give and take”

on faceless mooks

Houses on fire, screams in the background, heavily-armed, swastika’d soldiers and flame-spewing, mechanical beasts swaggering around.

“Monsters did this.”
“Not monsters – men.”

So starts the latest trailer to Wolfenstein II. The trailer itself is a gory, expletive-filled affair, but it deflates itself right off the bat. It fails to live up to its own rhetoric within the first few seconds. Continue reading “on faceless mooks”

on love

There is a cryptic line in the film Alexander, where the Persian warrior Pharnakes says to Alexander on his wedding night, “In the ways of my country, those who love too much lose everything. Those who love with irony last.”

I’m not sure why that line has stuck in my head even after so many years – it’s not particularly helpful, and as far as I know it’s mostly a load of orientalist crap; there is no provenance beyond a possible garbling of a sermon by Ali, brother of the Prophet Muhammad.

But by happy coincidence I think this line speaks more truth than it seems to. Continue reading “on love”

on subliminal gospel preaching

So I’ve been reading W.B. Barcley’s The Secret of Contentment recently and thinking about Philippians 4:11-13.

It’s one of my favourite parts of the Bible to feel smug and sanctimonious about – you know how it is, verse 13 is one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible; people use it to give every one of their actions divine backing and therefore diving legitimacy, because they can do all things in Christ. But in fact all the ‘things’ of verse 13 are precisely the unglamorous things Paul had listed just a sentence ago: being in want, having almost nothing, being hungry. So every time I read that verse I like to smugly give myself a self-five. Nice one, you’re not like the muggles. Continue reading “on subliminal gospel preaching”

on the nazi occult and evil

I’ve always had a morbid interest in the Nazi occult. Something about the inherent evil of the regime coupled with the possibility that it tapped supernatural forces to further its goals. Add to that the kookiness of the whole thing, the weird personalities involved, the freaky science, the esoteric history and mysticism behind the runes and artifacts, and the terrible majesty of the Nazi war machine, and you have something darkly fascinating.

Now one idea related to the Nazi occult is the Fourth Reich – the possibility that some remnant of the Nazi regime survived 1945 and went into hiding, possibly in South America, Antarctica, the centre of the earth, on the Moon (the possibilities get sillier each time), and has been secretly plotting revenge. So of course this idea is rich fodder for all sorts of fiction. Now my interest led me to two particular comic book series: M Mignola’s Hellboy, and K Hirano’s Hellsing. Both involve some kind of Fourth Reich (in the former, an occult-obsessed fifth column guided by evil gods, and in the latter, genetically-engineered, vampiric panzergrenadiers), and oddly enough both shed some useful light on evil. Continue reading “on the nazi occult and evil”

on looking out in despair

You remember that scene in Return of the King where Denethor pines over the mortally-wounded Faramir? He thinks his biggest problem is that his son is dead and his line extinguished, but he walks to the edge of the cliff and sees that it’s much worse: the host of Mordor is at the gates and he’s had no idea. And so he despairs, telling his soldiers “Flee! Flee for your lives!” Continue reading “on looking out in despair”

on buying things

Money has to be one of the strangest human inventions ever. Back in the dim and distant past our ancestors operated on a barter economy, exchanging certain goods for others – I chop trees, you herd sheep, I want meat and cheese and you want to build a house, there we go – but over time money evolved. Continue reading “on buying things”

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